Kingdom of Heaven (2005) Director's Cut

Tagline: “Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Safeguard the helpless, and do no wrong.” Very easy to achieve that as 21st Century member of the middle class. I don't, but it would be.

Premise: Monumental scale Ridley Scott epic set in the 12th Century. A French blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) travels to Jerusalem and ends up a player in the political and religious battles of the time.

Delivery: “God will understand, my lord. And if he doesn't, then he is not God and we need not worry.”

When Kingdom of Heaven hit cinemas in 2005 I was incredibly excited to see it. I'd seen a lot of the imagery and so on at my work and and I am a huge fan of Ridley Scott's Gladiator. I went, I saw, I was incredibly disappointed. Having avoided rewatching it for years, a friend suggested I check out the director's cut, promising a much better film. Despite my scepticism, he was absolutely correct.

Ridley Scott has publicly disowned the theatrical cut of Kingdom of Heaven. It was always meant to be what the director's cut is- an epic about religious warfare. Apparently the studio, 20th Century Fox, didn't get that. They essentially cut the middle out of the film, leaving a confused mess with very little character motivation and which turned Saladin into a one dimensional baddie; which he absolutely is not. In fact, Scott has been commended (apparently) by Muslim groups for his even handed portrayal of the faith.

The film's scale, of cast, locations and battles, are astonishing. Just over three hours long, it doesn't feel it. Plus, you'll spend half of Kingdom of Heaven film saying, “Ooh, where do I know him from?”. I use “him” deliberately because Eva Green is the only central cast member who is female. Which isn't a criticism, given the subject matter and setting. The acting is impeccable, if you can get over the fact that almost nobody plays a character from their actual homeland. Which I can.

The historical accuracy really isn't of importance to me. Kingdom of Heaven does not set out to be a lecture, more an entertaining film about the nature of belief and its role in conflict. The conflict, is, well, pretty brutal and happens on both a grand and intimate scale. As you'd expect from the director of Gladiator, the warfare is very well put together. The mix of action and intriguing plot is perfect, making for an exemplary watch.

Bedsit it? Big TV, lights off, perfect for a Sunday afternoon/ evening; Kingdom of Heaven is a spectacular piece of cinema. Even in the Bedsit. Do not watch the theatrical to save yourself forty minutes. If you do you're a moron and Ridley Scott will disown you. 9/10.


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